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Brown, Larry

Published by Algonquin, 2000, 2000
ISBN 10: 1565121686 / ISBN 13: 9781565121683
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About the Book

Bibliographic Details

Title: Fay

Publisher: Algonquin, 2000

Publication Date: 2000

Binding: Hardcover

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: 1st Edition


SIGNED (by Brown on title page) 1st ed., hardcover, near fine in near fine dj (small faint remainder mark to bottom edge of text block, some edgewear to dj), in mylar, regional authors, blm50. Bookseller Inventory # 16087

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She's had no education, hardly any shelter, and you can't call what her father's been trying to give her since she grew up "love." So, at the ripe age of seventeen, Fay Jones leaves home.

She lights out alone, wearing her only dress and rotting sneakers, carrying a purse with a half pack of cigarettes and two dollar bills. Even in 1985 Mississippi, two dollars won't go far on the road. She's headed for the bright lights and big times and even she knows she needs help getting there. But help's not hard to come by when you look like Fay.

There's a highway patrolman who gives her a lift, with a detour to his own place. There are truck drivers who pull over to pick her up, no questions asked. There's a crop duster pilot with money for a night or two on the town. And finally there's a strip joint bouncer who deals on the side.

At the end of this suspenseful, compulsively readable novel, there are five dead bodies stacked up in Fay's wake. Fay herself is sighted for the last time in New Orleans. She'll make it, whatever making it means, because Fay's got what it takes: beauty, a certain kind of innocent appeal, and the instinct for survival.

Set mostly in the seedy beach bars, strip joints, and massage parlors of Biloxi, Mississippi, back before the casinos took over, Fay is a novel that only Larry Brown, the reigning king of Grit Lit, could have written. As the New York Times Book Review once put it, he's "a writer absolutely confident of his own voice. He knows how to tell a story."

Review: Larry Brown's Fay picks up at the precise moment when its 17-year-old heroine walks out of his 1991 novel Joe. And really, who could blame her? Fay's father, Wade Jones, was one of the most enduring villains in recent fiction, the kind of man who would trade a son for a car and a daughter's virginity for a few $20 bills. Reared in migrant camps, tarpaper shacks, and, most recently, an abandoned cabin, Fay herself is pretty, goodhearted, astonishingly ignorant: in other words, trouble in a too-tight dress and a pair of rotting tennis shoes. Fleeing her father's advances, she takes to the Mississippi road in a passage that, with its rough music, is pure Brown:

She came down out of the hills that were growing black with night, and in the dusty road her feet found small broken stones that made her wince. Alone for the first time in the world and full dark coming quickly. House lights winked through the trees as she walked and swung her purse from her hand. She could hear cars passing down the asphalt but she was still a long way from that.
For the first time, Brown narrates most of a novel from a woman's point of view, and while the result is every bit as gripping as his previous work, it is also more inward-looking. Joe, for instance, reads like something carved out of a block of granite; in Fay, Brown feels somehow closer to the story--almost tender, or as tender as a writer with such an unflinching gaze can be. As Fay hitchhikes her way down Highway 55, from the woods near Oxford to the beaches and strip bars of Biloxi, she draws both men and violence to her like a magnet. Utterly without envy or self-pity, she is a force of nature, pure and simple, and Fay illuminates just how deadly her kind of innocence can be.

It's no value judgment to say this book is about white trash. Brown knows it, the reader knows it, Fay knows it; at one point, she even muses, "She never had been called a white trash piece of shit before but she'd been called white trash." But don't mistake Brown's work for mere trailer-park sociology. Despite the redneck trappings, the Jones family has been with us since the beginning of time, and their story, like all tragedies, is both larger than life and just like it too. "White trash," after all, is just another way of saying "not many choices." In writing about lives stripped down to their essentials, Brown reminds us of the dark truths our choices sometimes allow us to forget. --Mary Park

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